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Chinese Super League has money to burn

2017-04-02 07:10

When Graziano Pellè received a contract offer last year from Chinese Super League club Shandong Luneng Taishan, he must have thought that he was dreaming.

Although the Italian international had played a good Euros with the Italian national team, and could look back at a solid Premier League season with Southampton, even he presumably would not have thought that he was in a league above Sergio Agüero, Yaya Touré, Wayne Rooney and Neymar.

But that is exactly where the reported £290 000 (R4.7 million) weekly pay packet took him.

In fact, it took him into the top 10 of the highest-paid players in world football and highlighted the huge amounts that Chinese clubs were willing to spend to bring international players to the Super League.

There are, of course, those who believe that clubs in China have more cents than sense and the kind of money being paid to Pellè give credence to such arguments.

The counter, of course, is why the Chinese clubs should be looked at any differently than the likes of Roman Abramovich (Chelsea), the Abu Dhabi United Group (Manchester City) or the Qatar Investment Authority (PSG), who have been nearly as willing to part with as much money as the Chinese clubs have.

Compared with the salary paid by Shenhua FC to Argentina’s Carlos Tevez, who, at £615 000 a week, is by far the highest-paid player in the world, Pellè’s salary seems rather small.

With five or six (depending on which source one takes) players campaigning in the Chinese Super League making the top 20 list of the world’s highest-paid players, the question is: How long can the league sustain these kinds of salaries?

Although China’s political system is still a self-declared communist one, the same can certainly not be said about the economic system, which is akin to the laissez-faire policies of countries such as the US years ago.

Technology, however, has allowed business conglomerates to amass vast fortunes that not only enable them to compete with the likes of Abramovich and the Middle Eastern investors, it allows them to outprice them.

Take for instance Guangzhou Evergrande, who are looking for a seventh continuous league title. They are part-owned by the Alibaba Group, whose annual sales are more than Amazon and eBay combined.

With the average attendance at Super League matches rising by close to 9% to 24 171, it would appear that football fans have not only taken to the league, but have also taken to the players campaigning therein.

Some of the players have been criticised for being prepared to sacrifice their careers in pursuit of the huge amounts on offer in the league.

Many believed that Pellè, for instance, could have made use of his Euro performance to leave Southampton for a bigger club within some of the bigger leagues in Europe.

That, though, presupposes that turning down a move to another club in England, Spain, Germany or Italy for a contract in China is a step down – which in itself is a Eurocentric view to take.

Writing in the Guardian, Nick Miller defended Pellè’s decision: “How much does one man need? Of course, to those not earning six figures each week, it might look like greed, but, in this case, the figures are so astronomical as to be almost beyond our comprehension.

“In any case, a conservative estimate would suggest that, with this move, Pellè is at least quadrupling his wage and, when put like that, it hardly matters if he was previously earning £80 000 a week or £8 an hour– the chances are that most people, if offered a 225% pay rise, will take it.”

Read more on:    chinese super league
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